Vietnamese Banh mi - Popular food makes the world 'crazy' hinh anh 1

Hanoi (VNA) – Vietnamese banh mi kep (sandwich) – a popular street food across the country, still continues to make foreign diners surprised and fascinated by the perfect blend of Western cuisine with Vietnamese flavours.

Together with pho (noodles served with beef or chicken in a hot bowl of broth), bun cha (noodles with grilled meat), is one of Vietnam’s most famous culinary exports – a French-style bread filled with rich meats and zingy, fresh vegetables and herbs. It is also one of top ten attractive sandwiches in the world, and on the list of must-to-eat foods for foreigners when visiting Vietnam.

The name banh mi /ˈbɑːn miː/ is one of three Vietnamese words in Oxford dictionary, together with pho /fə ː/ and ao dai /ˈaʊ ˌdʌɪ/, proving its fame and magnet.

Many websites on world tourism and food, food blogs and renowned bloggers on lifestyle are ‘crazy’ with banh mi.

Originated from the West

The first baguette in Vietnam date back 130 years to when France colonised Vietnam from the 1880s to 1954. The French usually cut it into small sections to serve with soup, curry or butter.

In 1970, wood-fired ovens were converted into larger brick kilns to bake many banh mi at once, that made the bread with its Vietnamese identity.

From that Vietnamese chefs began making variations. Instead of putting butter or jam on bread, they layered it with bacon, making it delicious and more convenient.

Vietnamese Banh mi - Popular food makes the world 'crazy' hinh anh 2Banh mi is served on several flights of Vietnam Airlines

Banh mi has been developed across Vietnam. The flavours of the modern banh mi vary by region in Vietnam. In Hanoi in the north, the fillings are more simple than the “original” found in Ho Chi Minh City in the south, and include high-quality cold cuts. In the central coastal city of Hoi An, the meat used is served warm.

Conquering the world

Vietnamese banh mi is present in countries where Vietnamese people live because it is easy to make banh mi and find ingredients for it.

“Hard to resist” is what Theign Yie Phan, a head chef of a restaurant, describes Vietnamese “banh mi” (sandwich), which opened an article entitled “Story of the banh mi: Vietnam’s super sandwich that took on the world” run in the South China Morning Post recently.

“It is a good between-service snack. I eat one every other day. It is definitely not something you get sick of,” she says with a laugh, as she stands in front of an array of colourful ingredients ready to be stuffed into a crusty baguette at Le Petit Saigon in Wan Chai, the article wrote.

“As a sandwich it is well balanced in flavours and textures. There’s the crusty warm bread, the richness of the flavours of the meat, and then the tartness and sourness from the pickles,” said Phan, who is also the head chef of next-door sister restaurant, Le Garcon Saigon.

Cutting open a baguette, Phan layered it with thinly sliced pork belly, terrine and Vietnamese sausage, topped off with chicken liver pate and house-made mayonnaise. Next she balanced that with slices of fresh cucumber, pickled vegetables, Maggi sauce, coriander, spring onion and chilli – “for punch”.

“The US is a hub of pop culture, and over the years TV food shows, travel shows, Anthony Bourdain, food blogging and social media” have helped introduce people in the West to this quintessential fusion Vietnamese dish, said Phan.

Phan said she believes the wider American population embraced banh mi when it was introduced by Vietnamese immigrants because the ingredients used were “familiar” to the American palate.

“Everyone loves a good sandwich. And in every culture there is some sort of sandwich. So banh mi is very accessible culturally, so that’s why it has become so popular worldwide,” she said.

In May, 2019 the first Phuong banh mi shop opened in Yeonnam-dong, Mapo district, Seoul, the Republic of Korea. After tasting nearly banh mi in 200 different shops in Vietnam, Korean brothers Kim Jong Beom and Kim Jong Hyeon decided to bring the delicious food to their country.

Each banh mi costs around 6 USD. Diners can choose to make their own banh mi from different types of filling such as ham, grilled meat, butter, and cheese, among others./.